Mystery writers often get asked, “Where do your ideas (for books, murders, characters) come from?” This is a question I field at pretty much every presentation and every interview I do.
Since doing the cover reveal last week on social media for the new series I have coming out early next year, some people have asked, “Where did you get the idea for this series?”
The germ of the idea for the Café Cinema series started simply enough with me asking myself, “If I were to write a new series, what would I enjoy writing about?” Myself answered, “How about a premise featuring either coffee or old movies – two things that are quite dear to me?” At this point, my own experiences leapt in as inspiration.
There’s an old movie theater in my neighborhood that is now a bistro that projects classic films on the wall, providing a retro cool ambiance for diners. A friend of ours who lives a couple hours away had for years shown classic films on the weekends in an old theater in a nearby town. And, when we lived in Memphis, hubs and I had enjoyed frequenting a theater that showed foreign and independent films – and featured a wine bar instead of the typical concession stand.
In a rare moment of clarity it occurred to me that maybe I didn’t have to choose between a series set either in a coffee bar or a classic movie theater. Maybe I could come up with a mash-up of both! Coffee and classic films go together like peanut butter and jelly. Like peanut butter and chocolate. Like peanut butter and bananas. Okay, so I guess peanut butter goes well with lots of stuff – but so does coffee! What could be cozier than a steaming hot cup of coffee in your hands and a favorite film flickering on the big screen in a dark room as you relive magic moments?
Once I had my film-loving barista protagonist fleshed out in my head, and decided to set the series in a quirky but charming tourist town in the Ozarks (inspired by a real town), the supporting cast of inter-generational characters starting showing up for the party. In a future post, I’ll talk a bit about the “arduous” work of researching coffee and old movies I am forced to endure for this series. (Nice work if you can get it, right?) By the way, in my new cup-of-cozy author photo, below, if you look over my shoulder you can spy a bit of a movie theater marquee.
For now, here’s a teaser for Book One: My Fair Latte.
Broke, unemployed barista Halley Greer is shocked when she inherits an Art Deco movie palace from the great uncle she remembers meeting once as a child. She moves to the charming tourist town of Utopia Springs, Arkansas to claim her legacy. In addition to the timeworn theater, she discovers she’s also inherited a trash-heaped apartment, family secrets, her uncle’s friends, a stealthy calico kitty—and an adversary.
With a whole latte help from her new friends, the feisty barista fixes up and re-opens the theater as a coffee and wine bar, showing classic films. She generates some steam with a hunky local—and risks getting burned. The opening night of My Fair Lady looks like a big hit, and her new life feels like a bit of movie magic, until a customer turns up dead during intermission. With the cops eyeing her as a suspect, Halley digs into the victim’s life and runs into a tangle of blackmail and secrets. Can Halley and her friends unmask a killer before the curtain comes down for keeps?
Where do you find inspiration? Have you ever been surprised by how two separate ideas/projects came together? Share in the comments.